By Kylee Sellers /PHR National Finalist
Kylee Sellers of Hugo, Oklahoma, is a 2012 Aquafina Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run National Finalist. Kylee shared her Pitch, Hit & Run experiences with MLB.com
I just had the trip of a lifetime! I was one of twenty-four participants from across the USA and Canada who had advanced through competitions to the MLB Pitch, Hit, and Run National Finals that were held in Kansas City, MO. One of my dreams had come true, a goal accomplished.
When we first arrived at the hotel in KC, I could not believe I was about to have one of the best times of my life. We were met by the PHR staff and got checked into our hotel. Later on we went to the Welcome Reception in a beautiful ballroom where we got to meet all the other national finalists. I was amazed at how special we were being treated. The PHR staffers are amazing people who have done so much for us. Ron Radigonda with ASA gave a speech and brought gifts to all of the girls from Team USA. It was great! Also, Harold Reynolds spoke about when he was a kid from a small town like me. He reminded us to dream big and place our goals high. He achieved so much in his baseball career. I know that my dreams are just as big, my goals are high, and I will not give up.
The next morning was the morning of the MLB All Star Brunch. We went downtown and had a picture taken where there was a blue fountain set behind the statue of letters ALL STAR GAME 2012. We went to the delicious brunch, and while we ate, MLB team mascots walked around, teasing us, and taking pictures. Our next stop was Fanfest. Fanfest is the baseball fan's dream to be able to take part in so many events such as a mini HomeRun Derby, get your very own baseball card made in your favorite team jersey, slide into a base or dive headfirst for a taco hat.
Next we headed to Kauffman Stadium. This was the day we all had waited for, the PHR National Finals. However, I remembered what I heard the first day, we were all winners just to have made it this far. The stadium was so awesome. The jumbotron was by far the biggest I've ever seen with the crown on top. We were announced one by one, each one of our pictures and info on the jumbotron. I was really nervous, as we had an ESPN announcer announcing the competition, every pitch thrown, every hit, and our run time. I came in third, but was still so happy that I at least made it this far. I was still having the time of my life!
After the competition, we got to hang around next to the field during Gatorade All Star Workout Day. The National and American League All Stars were there, and some came over to meet us while we sat in the dugout. Soon after, we went to the bullpen to wait our turn to be on the field during the homerun derby. We ran onto the field, with thousands of fans in the stadium. While on the field, we all ran after the balls that didn't go out of the park .all of us eager to be able to just catch one. I actually got to catch one and throw it in. Wow! I have never had a better time in my life. I love baseball and softball so much; this is what is in the heart of me.
On Tuesday we went to Fanfest again, where we were presented our trophies and got to have more free time. After that we went to eat lunch at some of the best barbeque that Kansas City is famous for. We also visited the Negro Leagues Museum. It was so interesting and I'm glad to have experienced that. We had a little free time to rest up before going back to Kauffman Stadium for the All Star Game. This was the game I had always wanted to attend. I was so excited that not only was I going, but I was going with my dad. He is a former baseball player and a huge baseball fan himself. We took part in the pregame festivities by making the largest American flag out of people in the stands wearing colored shirts. The pregame ceremonies are the best .the American Flag, the color guard presenting it while the National Anthem is sung. There was a stealth bomber that flew overhead! We were cheering for the American League, but we were just excited to be there. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us and I'm so thankful to have been a part of it. I will never forget the game, the festivities, and the people that I have met along the way. I have also learned some great life lessons along the way. It was a dream come true for me. Again, I want everyone to know that no matter what, believe in yourself, set a goal and do your best. My memaw told me, put God first, never give up, practice hard, and do your best.
I want to say thank you to all the PHR staff and LEJ Sports for making this possible for myself and the rest of the finalists. It was an amazing experience, filled with fun, new friends, and so much excitement. I also want to thank Aquafina/Pepsi for sponsoring this national competition. All across the USA and Canada, kids like me have the opportunity to take part in the Pitch, Hit and Run competitions that are so much fun. To the special guests at our reception, thank you for being there because you made it extra special for each one of us. To the All-Stars, thank you for doing what you do, for loving the game just like we do, it is you that we look up to and hope to be where you are someday. And last but not least, to my family, friends, and coaches, thank you for believing in me, for cheering me on, and for being proud of me no matter what, and for sharing my excitement and experiences.
March was almost here and it means a couple of things. My mom's birthday and the Pitch, Hit, and Run Competition! I have competed in the Local PHR competition the last two years. I won All-Around Champion at the last two and advanced to the Sectional Competition and placed 2nd both times. The first year, I was okay with 2nd place because it was my first time and thought, now I know what to expect, so I will do better next year. The 2nd year I went to Sectionals, I placed 2nd again. This time I was upset with myself. I had wanted first place because I wanted to qualify to go to the Team Championship at the Texas Rangers Ballpark. But after the sectional, my Memaw (grandmother) told me that she was so proud of me, and that made me feel so much better. She said, "Babe, next year is gonna be your year. You're gonna win it all." So, that's what I planned on doing. My memaw, my dad and mom, always would tell me, keep practicing!
This year, I was determined to go back to the PHR Local Competition to do my very best. My Memaw passed away in January and this was such a hard time for my family, as we spent every day with her. I was going to do just as she had told me and practice and keep trying. She would want me to continue on with my dreams and always wanted me to do my very best and never give up! I went to the Local PHR in my hometown, Hugo, OK at the local softball fields that I play at and I won first in every category, winning All-Around Champ! My picture was in the paper with the other winners!
The Sectional Level of the PHR was in Tahlequah, OK in May. A 4-hour drive away for us, my parents took me and my two little sisters to Tulsa on Saturday to spend the night and compete Sunday. This is where it was held the past two years, so I was familiar with the field.
On Sunday morning we were the first ones to the field that day. My dad took me down to warm up. I met the other girls who were really nice and wished them the best of luck. It was fun competing doing the things that I love to do: pitch, hit, and run! Announcing the winners, I won 1st place!!! Thanks to my family for always believing in me and for helping me to believe in myself! The PHR Coordinator told my mom and dad that my score was the kind that they should take me out to eat and let me choose!
The next two weeks were unbelievably long. We were waiting to see if my score was high enough to make it in the top three scores out of several sectionals in the Texas Rangers market. That would be the best if I made it to compete for the Team Championship!!! That was one of my dreams! We waited and waited. My mom checked her email many times a day. My dad checked it for her when she couldn't. I was in the middle of my summer softball season, so that helped keep my mind off of it for a little while. Finally, one night while I was staying the night at one of my best friend's house, I checked her email. I saw on the subject line "CONGRATULATIONS"!!! There were the words: "Congratulations Kylee Sellers, you have qualified to advance to the Team Championship level of the Pitch, Hit, and Run Competition to be held at Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX." I was the happiest girl in the world!!!
I called my mom and dad immediately. My mom said they were so excited they couldn't sleep that night! This was June 14th. The day of competition for the Team Championship at the Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was set for June 24th. It was only 10 days away! The Texas Rangers were one of my all-time favorite baseball teams. I was so excited!
The next week went by quickly. We left Saturday to head to Arlington to spend the night, and got to the ballfield early the next morning. They took the PHR participants down onto the field where they had us stretch, and warm-up. We competed in all the events, took pictures, and then announced the winners. I waited until they came to my age division. I won 1st place at the Team Championship! I was so happy and relieved. I received my plaque and saw my family in the audience with smiles on their faces, ear to ear. They were so proud of me.
After the competition, we got a phone call from PHR National Director, Matt Hilley. We had to be back early because for the pregame ceremony and MLB was going to make an official announcement of the 24 national finalists live on MLB Network. We got back early and they took us to the Texas Rangers Conference Room. Back in the conference room they chose me to be interviewed by an MLB sports reporter. I was so nervous. It was so cool because I was being interviewed in the same room as Ron Washington and the Texas Rangers after their games. After the interview, we went to the field for the pregame ceremony. There were over 45,000 people and it was a new season record in attendance. The announcer drew everyone's attention to us and we were even on the Jumbo-tron. He announced each one of us and then said "MLB Network has just announced the PHR National Finalists that are advancing to Kansas City, and that two of the team champion winners here today are advancing." He continued, "Congratulations to Brett Hall and Kylee Sellers. You made it to National Finals at the MLB All-Star Game!" At that moment, I was in shock. The crowd was cheering and applauding. I couldn't believe it I was in the top three in the nation, out of 685,000 kids who competed. The only thing at that moment I could do was thank God for giving me the opportunity to do this, and also to all the PHR directors and volunteers who organize and do this for the youth across the nation. Because of you my dreams are coming true!
The next few days were very busy for me and my family. We were on the phone our national PHR coordinator, to get everything planned for our upcoming trip to Kansas City, MO. In addition to this I was practicing everyday. I am so proud and so honored to even be going. No matter what place I make, I am just happy, grateful, and thankful. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you Aquafina MLB PHR for allowing us kids to be given a chance to do this. I am going to get to go to the All Star Game, shag balls for the Home Run Derby, and meet some of the best kids across the nation who love to play ball like me. Even though it took me three years, I never gave up. My Memaw's words are coming true, I know she is smiling down on me. It's hard to believe in less than a week I will be attending the MLB All Star festivities. My journey began back in March, and what an exciting six months this has been. So if I could give anyone my best advice, give God all the glory and thanks, never give up on your dreams, and believe in yourself. I know my destination, but it is the journey that holds experiences that my life will never forget and I am having the time of my life.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.